What is this “project”, can I eat it?

Let me starts with some real basics (I need to get used to regular writing). So what is a project?

This is a very good questions, glad you asked. Let me share some “expert definitions”.

Expert 1: PMI (source)

It’s a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.

Expert 2: Prince2 (source)

A Project is a temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed Business Case.

Expert 3: Cambridge Dictionary online (source)

“A piece of planned work or an activity that is finished over a period of time and intended to achieve a particular aim.”

Expert 4: Wikipedia (source)

“In contemporary business and science a project is defined as a collaborative enterprise, involving research or design, that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim. Projects can be further defined as temporary rather than permanent social systems or work systems that are constituted by teams within or across organizations to accomplish particular tasks under time constraints.”

You can clearly see that every of our experts has a different definition of “what is a project”, but… are you sure? When I first encountered Project Management and tried to find a definition of what a project is I was pretty surprised. WTF? So simple and yet so many definitions (and you can find many more if you search). When you look closed tough you will clearly see that all this definitions share similar characteristics of a project.

Let’s try to put them together:

A project …

  1. is temporary: every project should have a defined beginning and end (different to ongoing business operations)
  2. has a unique goal: every project is unique and produces unique output (f.e. creating 200 cars per day on a production line is not a project).

Now let’s see some examples:

  • a production line is not a project
    • Why? As it’s not unique and not temporary
  • Doing everyday business (like running an organisation) is not a project
    • Why? It’s also not unique and not temporary
  • Building an arena is a project
    •  Why? It has a beginning and an end and is also unique.
  • Preparing an event like Olympics is a project
    • Why? It is a temporary endeavor and is unique
  • Creating a new software is a project
    • Why? It has a beginning and an end and every software is unique.

There is one “but” to this points… maintaining the arena, maintaining the software will not be a project anymore but ongoing business.

What projects are you working on? It can be business or it can be private life, like organizing a birthday party to your loved ones. I’m curious to see your examples of what is a project.


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